Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oscar Animated Shorts! [Oscar Watch]

Just got back from seeing the Oscar nominated shorts at the IFC Center. Overall, they were fantastic and it felt great to see a whole bunch live action short films that were truly top quality. Great stories, great filmmaking, innovative, interesting, NOT BORING. I don't know how many film school short festivals YOU'VE been to, but if the answer is more than one, then you need to go to IFC immediately so you can see what the short form is actually capable of.

Here's how the live action shorts ranked for me:

1. New Boy
2. Toyland
3. The Pig (though my cohorts and I disagreed on this one)
4. On The Line
5. Manon on the Asphalt

Here's what the New York Times had to say about two of my favorites,

The most interesting live-action candidates — “New Boy” [from Ireland] and “The Pig,” from Denmark — are concise, witty excursions into complicated contemporary realities. Both deal with the growing pains of multicultural Europe, and they do so with more wryness than didacticism. Rather than teaching lessons in tolerance, they show how tricky such lessons can be, to teach or to learn.

Toyland is the Holocaust drama of the group, and for most of it I was thinking to myself "Oh, here's the Holocaust frontrunner, yaawwwnnn", until one particular moment, and if you've seen the film, you know what I mean, that made me realize just WHY it's getting the attention its received. And I couldn't stop crying.

Ultimately though, I prefer New Boy, and I hope the Academy agrees with me on this one. I wouldn't by any means mind if Toyland won, it was great, but New Boy touched me in a way none of the others did. It's genuinely hilarious & unexpectedly moving. I was gonna post the trailer here, but it gives waaaay too much away. So. Don't watch the trailer.

Now on to animated shorts. While the live action shorts were great, the animated ones were FANTASTIC. In my opinion. Here's the Times,

If the live-action shorts are characterized by realism and local knowledge — each offering a few moments of immersion in the particulars of individual or family life — their animated siblings explore the universality of film language. The five employ various visual techniques, traditional and newfangled, but what they have in common is an almost complete lack of dialogue.

This is a tough category. Each short had something unique to offer. Oktapodi was bright, short & sweet, This Way Up was British slapstick comedy at its finest (with a dash of surrealism thrown in of course), Presto is Pixar perfection, Lavatory/Love Story is simple, delightful joy and La Maison en Petits Cube is beautiful & moving and manages to be both quiet & epic at the same time.

If I had to narrow it down to three for the win it would be: Presto as the frontrunner, La Maison en Petits Cube as the artsy alternative and Lavatory - Love Story as the potential upset/dark horse. I'll have trouble finally settling on one when I fill out my Oscar ballot tomorrow. Though it must be said - Pixar knows how to deliver, and Presto is their best short in years. They've lost this category 7 years running, which I think ultimately plays in its favor.

Below you will find all five nominees for Best Animated Short. To watch my favorite from the ones that almost made the cut, Jack & Karen, click here. I beg of you. It's only 3 minutes. Watch it. It was the only one that made the audience break out into applause.

La Maison en Petits Cube (Pieces of Love)


Lavatory - Love Story


This Way Up